Deer farming bill postponed by committee

Deer farming bill postponed by committee
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
A bill sponsored by state Rep. Frank Nicely to bring white-tailed deer farming to Tennessee is drawing strong opposition from the Tennessee Wildlife Federation this week.
The state federation is also throwing its support behind the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in response to a move by state Rep. Jim Cobb to dissolve the agency.
“If you’re passionate about hunting or wildlife watching, help us stop state Rep. Frank Nicely from bringing white-tailed deer farming to Tennessee,” an email sent out by the TWF states in part. “His bill (HB3164) will allow for the privatization of white-tailed deer and the breeding and sale of this native species so that ‘trophy’ deer can be shot inside small pens.”
The federation’s email goes on to claim “a small group of state representatives appear to be putting their personal interests over the public good.”
The TWF estimates white-tailed deer support 26,000 jobs in the state and generate about $700 million a year for the state’s economy.
Nicely’s bill was postponed Tuesday and the House Agriculture Committee meeting was canceled as a result, according to Hayden Pendergrass, legislative assistant to state Rep. BIll Sanderson.
“After listening to all the concerns that many of my constituents had about the deer farming legislation, I decided that I am not going to support this current bill and believe there are many problems that need to be addressed with the legislation if it is gong to move forward in the future,” Sanderson said.
Blue Bank Resort owner Mike Hayes, who served six years on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, said he is strongly opposed to the deer farming bill.
“Why would you let the state agriculture department manage deer farming when you’ve had the TWRA manage it since the 1940s?,” Hayes told The Messenger today.
He said wildlife management should be managed by wildlife officials, and that system has worked well for Tennessee and the state’s sportsmen for years.
House Bill 2776 was introduced by state Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, and was passed in the House Subcommittee of Conservation and Environment Tuesday morning, according to Pendergrass. The bill did have an amendment attached that introduces some changes to the current way the TWRA is structured and renames the agency the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Under the amended bill, the agency would have 13 members. The state commissioner of agriculture and state commissioner of environment and conservation would serve as non-voting members of the commission.
“It’s intended that all current commission members will be reappointed to serve out the rest of their terms,” according to Pendergrass. “The governor will appoint nine members, and the speaker of each house will have two appointments each. Attendance to commission meetings will now be enforced and if any member misses more than four meetings in a calendar year, they will lose their appointment.”
After hearing of the amended bill, Hayes said, “I have no problem with that.”
He said the current members of the commission should be allowed to complete their terms in office. He said he supports the proposed nomination system and said that system will keep politics out of the agency.
“The agency is being run well,” Hayes said.
He said when he rotated off the commission last year, wildlife management in Tennessee was doing very well and the agency was in very good financial shape with a healthy fund reserve.
 Published in The Messenger 2.15.12

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